Shoeless Indian boys from Mexico dominated a recent youth basketball tournament beating teams from throughout the Americas that on average were taller, while all the time running back and forth on the court barefoot. The achievement brought praise throughout Mexico and beyond.
The team represented the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca and is comprised of Trique Indian boys – an indigenous people. They won all six of this year's tournament games at the International Festival of Mini-Basketball, which was held in Argentina, the Associated Press reported
Due to their size and lack of footwear, the team was affectionately nicknamed the "the barefoot mice from Mexico," according to one of the team's coaches Ernesto Merino, who is also Trique Indian.
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So just how did the team overcome their height disadvantage to beat out their competitors?
Through "strength, speed and resistance," Merino told the AP.
According to the coach, the players are given tennis shoes when they make the team, however most of the kids prefer playing barefoot because it's what they are used, coming from generally large, poor families that often cannot provide shoes for their children.
''For them it's normal to not have shoes, to walk barefoot,'' Merino added.
Mexico's state of Oaxaca is among one of the poorest regions in the country, the AP noted.
Following their win, the team received thunderous applause lasting about a minute on the floor of Mexico's Chamber of Deputies on Wednesday, as well as praise from Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.
''The victories of the Trique Indian team from Oaxaca's Academy of Indigenous Basketball make Mexicans proud,'' Pena Nieto said in a tweet.
''These boys deserved (the championship) more than anyone,'' added Horacio Muratore, president of the International Basketball Federation-Americas, the AP reported.
According to coach Merino, the players joined the team through a government-funded program aimed at giving kids in marginalized communities opportunities and positive activities with the hope that they will build on them to better themselves later in life.
''We see a basketball as an opportunity to grow in life,'' Merino said.
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The program, which is now three years old, presently has 40 children enrolled in it, five of which are girls, the AP noted.
As suggested by its name, the mini-basketball tournament is not played on regulation courts, but rather smaller courts with shortened hoops so to allow children a better chance of scoring points.
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